Tour de France route for 2015 favours climbers with a fast finish

Cobblestones to feature again in route that will include just 14 individual time trial kilometres

The itinerary for the 2015 Tour de France is seen during its presentation at a news conference in Paris yesterday. The world’s greatest cycling event will start from Utrecht in the Netherlands on July 4th. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

The itinerary for the 2015 Tour de France is seen during its presentation at a news conference in Paris yesterday. The world’s greatest cycling event will start from Utrecht in the Netherlands on July 4th. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

 

Former world number one Sean Kelly has said that the mountainous 2015 Tour de France race route unveiled yesterday could suit Dan Martin very well, but said that the Irishman needs to firstly safely negotiate the seven cobblestone sectors which appear on the fourth stage.

“I think the Tour de France organisation took a risk this year of including cobbles and you saw the consequences with a number of riders crashing,” Kelly said. “Chris Froome went out of the race on that stage, although he did fall before even getting to the first cobblestone section.

“I think Froome is going to be very nervous about going to the race because of that. I also think Dan Martin might be too. He didn’t ride the race this year and while he never publicly said the cobbles were a factor, I think they were. He will likely be worried about them being in the 2015 route.” Crashed Martin crashed on several occasions in 2014, including a stage one fall in the Giro d’Italia which resulted in a broken collarbone and put him out of the race. Providing he can get through next year’s fourth stage without losing too much time, though, Kelly believes the Tour route could suit him very well.

“Dan is a good climber and with a lack of time trials, it could work very well for him. We saw he rode well in this year’s Vuelta a España, taking seventh overall, and he appears to be improving all the time. The way things are going, he could potentially finish in the top five of the Tour de France if he gets through those cobbles okay.”

The race route was unveiled yesterday by organisers ASO, who revealed that the 2015 edition will have just 14 individual time trial kilometres, the lowest number since their systematic inclusion in 1947.

Instead, the stages lean heavily towards climbing, with five full mountain top finishes at La Pierre Saint-Martin, Plateau de Beille, Pra Loup, La Toussuire-Les Sybelles and the famed Alpe d’Huez.

There are also shorter, steeper finishing ramps at the Mur de Huy, the Mur de Bretagne and Cauterets-Vallee de Saint-Savin.

In addition to those eight uphill finishes, stage 14’s climb of the Côte de la Croix Neuve will also give reward to the explosive riders, with this steep three kilometre, 10.1 per cent gradient topping out just 1.5 kilometres from the finish in Mende.

Factor in the return of time bonuses and it is clearly a race which will favour climbers that have fast finishes. Martin is a very explosive rider and could prosper on some of those climbs.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), past winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and 2013 runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) all gave thumbs up to the route profile, but 2013 champion Froome (Sky) appeared unhappy due to the scarcity of time trial kilometres.

“There’s no two ways about it, next year’s Tour is going to be about the mountains. There’s very little emphasis on time trialling which means the race will be decided up in the high mountains,” he said.

Surprisingly, he suggested that he might miss the race.

“The team and I will have to give it some careful consideration before we make any commitments to which of the Grand Tours I will compete in. I see myself as quite a balanced GC rider and the Giro, with its inclusion of a long TT of 60km and tough uphill finishes, will make it a well balanced race which suits me well.”

He said that if he opted to ride the Italian race, he would likely aim for the Vuelta a España rather than trying to do the Tour de France as well.

However, given the importance of the Tour for big teams and their sponsors, few believe that Froome will ultimately opt out.

Opportunity The opening race against the clock aside, the only other opportunity for those strong in time trials is the 28 kilometre team TT on July 12th.

However the fact that this is not an individual test should mean that the specialist climbers can limit their losses.

These include the riders who finished second and third overall this year, the French duo Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), plus the 2013 runner-up Quintana and his Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde.

Cobbles aside, Martin will also be pleased as his climbing is far better than his ability against the clock.

First cousin Nicolas Roche will likely also ride, although if Froome takes part he will have to ride for the Sky captain. He has inked a deal to join the team next season. Donegal’s Philip Deignan is also a possible starter for the British squad.

Sam Bennett could potentially make his debut if selected for the NetApp Endura team.

The Carrick-on-Suir rider is a very fast sprinter and will welcome the inclusion of nine flat stages.

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